How Live Chat fits into SUMO: Community participation

The Mozilla Support (SUMO) project is unique in the way it involves the broader Mozilla community to improve the user experience. The Live Chat component of SUMO, which I started leading last month, is no exception. As a compliment to the Support Forum, Live Chat is best able to investigate new issues that arise and serve users who need help following the written documentation. Live Chat helpers can investigate issues interactively with affected users, obtaining useful data for the rest of the community. Not all helpers actively answer questions – we also need people who can advise other helpers and ensure quality service. People who have helped in Live Chat range from new Firefox users to seasoned support volunteers to Firefox developers.

One great thing about support as a community is that the line between user and helper is blurred. Many of the current support volunteers got started by asking a question themselves, staying around to help other people using information learned solving their own problems. While most users don’t have time to commit regularly, many users have spent extra time to troubleshoot an issue, to let us know what finally fixed a problem, or to post advice about solved issues in the forum. Likewise, many people in the Mozilla community without a lot of time to commit have helped by assisting newer helpers when a new issue arises. The support community allows new helpers to learn about Mozilla and support in general, while actively helping users solve problems.

While SUMO doesn’t define rigid roles for contributors, we need people helping users and those assisting helpers to be available at once for quality help in Live Chat. To regularly achieve this, we are starting a new scheduling system where community members can sign up to fill a ‘role’ in a given time slot.

  • Advisor: Senior helpers and other community members who can assist other helpers, but not accept user questions directly.
  • Helper: The majority of volunteers sign up as helpers, answering questions from users and participating in discussions in #sumo.
  • Anchor: These users commit to an entire block of time, ensuring that users aren’t left without a helper.
  • Room monitor: Experienced helpers who watch chats in progress and document new findings to ensure quality service. They should ensure that correct advice is given and that helpers are discussing issues in #sumo.

A senior helper, for example, might want to anchor two hours and advise five hours in a given week. If you know specific times that you can help, please sign up so that other helpers know when to come.

If you think Live Chat might be right for you, read our documentation on getting started. To start accepting Live Chat questions, you will need to get the open source Spark client. However, you can get started assisting other helpers on irc, joining chat sessions using any XMPP (Jabber) client. If you think another area of SUMO would suit you best, check out our other ways to contribute. Alternatively, simply join #sumo on irc.mozilla.org (or via mibbit) to ask us directly!